Netizens' Privacy Under Threat
Netizens' Privacy Under Threat
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  • 승인 2006.03.01 12:01
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The thorny issue of Internet privacy and identity theft has again been making headlines in South Korea over the past weeks, following the disclosure that hackers had stolen the identities of more than 200,000 people who had registered for the popular online game, Lineage. More than two million Koreans are apparently registered users of the game, owned by the company NCSoft.
This breach of privacy predictably resulted in a public outrage over the issue of identity security, which has forced the government to step in and take measures to protect Netizens from such crimes. The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) therefore announced on Feb. 16 that it would launch an antiidentification theft campaign by reviewing subscription policies of 100,000 local websites to check whether they leaked resident registration numbers and other personal information. In addition, the ministry is considering banning Internet sites from using the resident numbers for confirming the identification of new subscribers. NCSoft, South Korea's largest game company, said that it would adopt a mobile-phone certification system after receiving severe damage to its credibility. The firm planned to implement the new system by the end of February, which will prevent hackers from using other peoples' personal information to create game accounts. Besides NCSoft, most of Korea's gaming portals or Internet sites are mandating new subscribers to provide their names and resident registration numbers. When ending up in the hands of criminals, citizenship numbers become dangerous because they include so much personal, sensitive information. The 13-digit number system used on Koreans' resident registration cards is a combination of birth date, gender, the first registration region and registration order. In this sense, the MIC faces a dilemma because frequent use of resident numbers is risky - yet the realname system is needed to stop unscrupulous Web users from posting libelous photographs, video footage or remarks, which is another emerging social problem. For this reason, the MIC last year introduced a new online identification system based on five alternative types of foolproof ID to replace the resident numbers. However, this praiseworthy initiative has not been widely accepted because most Internet portals refuse to adopt any one of them, claiming it would impose a substantial financial burden to set up new databases. In fact, they have no obligation to do so because the policy is just a guideline, not a coercive measure. In this climate, NCSoft also looks set to phase in a new system while, at the same time, neglecting the MIC project. Instead of moving to one of the five new alternatives, it has decided to complicate things for identity thieves while basically depending on the use of resident numbers. The new sign-up system, which will be introduced by NCSoft, will require people to enter their mobile phone numbers together with resident numbers. Although the MIC has yet to decide whether or not it will make it compulsory for firms to adopt the new formula, it is clear that urgent and decisive intervention by government is needed to prevent a repetition of the Lineage fiasco. The measures introduced by Lineage and its counterparts are unlikely to be sufficient deterrence to the new breed of Cyber criminals.

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